Thursday, October 31, 2019

Detroit A Go Go photos- 2: the Motown shows

Here is the second batch of photos from my trip to Detroit, this time focusing on the two Motown A Go Go shows celebrating the 60th birthday of Motown.
First here are the Marvelettes, who now comprise one original member (Katherine Anderson Schaffner), and three new members.
The first show was kicked off by The Posse who are now a duo which includes one original member but were originally a quintet which included band leader Ronnie Nelson.
This is Kim Weston.
Here's Chris Clark.
Still looking and sounding great this is Carolyn Crawford.
An exciting performer with a good stage act, this is G C Cameron, formerly lead singer of The Spinners.
Another very good performer, here is Brenda Holloway.
All the acts took the stage at the end of the show.
Phil Dick was the man behind the weekend and must be congratulated for some great shows.
A visit to the Woodlawn cemetery where many Motown artists are buried or interred, including David Ruffin, Lawrence Payton and Levi Stubbs. There is also the Gordy family plot and a memorial to Michael Jackson. Aretha Frankin is interred there. Here is Marv Johnson's grave.
And this is the grave of Levi Stubbs.
The second night began with 'Junior Walker's All Stars', who were actually members of the Ronnie Nelson band with the Ladeez backing group.
Next up were the Vandellas, with originals Rosalind Holmes and Annette Helton plus Roschelle Laughhunn.
Here are the Velvelettes, who are the only Motown group still performing which contains only original members.
Several awards were presented including a lifetime achievement award to Paul Riser, seen here with Phil Dick.
This is the Miracles, featuring Mark Scott (right). No original members here.
These are the Elgins.
One of the best acts of the weekend, here are the Contours.
These are the Supremes featuring Scherrie Payne and Susaye Greene.
Finally in this set here's one of me with Carolyn Crawford.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Detroit A Go Go photos - 1

I'm back from a very enjoyable trip to Detroit A Go Go and here's the first batch of music photos from the trip.
The first evening we went to the Northern Lights Lounge where Dennis Coffey has a regular Tuesday gig. Dennis also took part in a Motown panel discussion later in the weekend.
Appearing with Dennis was Lady Champagne, who attended all of the Detroit A Go Go shows I think.
There was a meet and greet at the Hotel St Regis on the Wednesday where one of the singers was Beth Griffith-Manley, who was a contestant on The Voice TV show.
Also singing was the raunchy Ms Cubie.
Making a surprise appearance here is sixties soul singer Rose Battiste.
Here's one of me with Beth.
The first night of Detroit A Go Go kicked off with a number from the Ladeez, who provided terrific backing vocals through all four shows.
Here are The Professionals.
Sadly singing just one number, this is Jimmy Scott.
These are the Dynamics.
Here we have Willie Jones.
Hosting the show and closing it vocally here is Spyder Turner.
After the show we went to the Raven Lounge blues bar, where Harmonica Shah was excellent.
Also making a good impression was Michelle Varell (?)
Another decent singer was Ray Robinson.
Here's a shot of the exterior of the Raven Lounge.
No trip to Detroit is complete without a visit to the Motown Museum. Here are trombonist Paul Riser with Jackie Hicks and Louvain Demps of the Andantes.
Here's one of me outside the museum.
Finally in this set of photos here are the Fantastic Four at the signing session for their new single 'Can't Stop Looking For My Baby'.

Monday, October 28, 2019

More magical music in Motown

Detroit has produced more than its fair share of great musicians over the years and many of them are buried or interred at the Woodlawn Cemetery. On Saturday we took the bus there and began by visiting the mausoleum where Aretha Franklin is interred, along with her father Rev C L Franklin and sisters Carolyn and Erma. We checked out several other graves  including those of Marv Johnson, Levi Stubbs and Lawrence Payton of the Four Tops, the Gordy family plot where Esther Gordy Edwards is commemorated and a memorial to Michael Jackson. There are many more music related graves there, including Billy Davis, Pervis Jackson of the Spinners, David Ruffin, James Jamerson and Earl Van Dyke, as well as members of the Ford, Dodge and Hudson motor dynasties. The autumn colours were a delight but our visit was cut short in the end by rain.
The second Motown A Go Go show took place in the evening at Bert's Warehouse and once again it was a fantastic night of great music and nostalgia. Billed as Junior Walker's All Stars, the Ronnie Nelson band and backing group The Ladeez, wearing glittery jackets, kicked things off in fine style with 'Roadrunner', 'What Does It Take' and 'Shotgun'. Then it was the turn of original Vandellas Rosalind Holmes and Annette Helton, along with Roschelle Laughhunn, to crank things up with 'Heatwave', 'Nowhere To Run' and 'Dancing In The Street', all sounding much like they did when Martha still had a decent voice.
Next up was a real treat: the Velvelettes featuring all four original members. They looked extremely elegant dressed in long peach, blue and green dresses and sounded great too, with lead singer Carolyn Gill showing the way. There was a moment of drama though as sister Mildred slipped and fell backwards on the stage. Fortunately she was able to carry on after a few minutes and all three of their numbers - 'These Things Will Keep Me Loving You', 'Lonely Lonely Girl Am I' and the classic 'Needle In A Haystack' - were sublime.
The interval saw a series of awards to Motown luminaries  including Ivy Joe Hunter, Paul Riser, Clay McMurray, who was represented by his family, and a lifetime achievement award for the late Esther Gordy Edwards, which was collected by the manager of the Motown Museum that she set up. There were also acknowledgements for the work of Phil Dick and his crew for setting up the shows of the last three years and for the support of Pat Lewis.
The Motown vocal group magic continued in the second half with the Miracles, featuring lead singer Mark Scott, whose set included 'Tears Of A Clown', 'More Love' and, appropriately, 'Going To A Go Go'. Next up were the Elgins, frequent visitors to the UK, whose lead singer Saundra Edward's spent several precious minutes talking about their UK trips and their recent R and B Hall of Fame Award, rather than singing. She dedicated the set to singer Johnny Dawson, who died last year, but when they did sing ('Darling Baby' and 'Heaven Must Have Sent You') they were excellent.
I've always had a soft spot for the Contours' rather more upbeat numbers and I was delighted when the five guys, including founding member Joe Billingsley, hit the stage. They were funny, energetic and on top form as they sang 'First I Look At The Purse', 'Just A Little Misunderstanding' and their breakthrough hit  'Do You Love Me'. Along with the Velvelettes they were the stand out act of the night I thought.
Final act of a long night were the Supremes, featuring Scherrie Payne and Susaye Greene, plus Joyce Vincent. Looking glamorous as you would expect, in yellow gowns, they had all the actions and poses made famous by previous group members and harmonised well on 'You Keep Me Hanging On', 'Stop In The Name Of Love' and 'Love is Like An Itching In My Heart'. They closed with 'Some Day We'll Be Together' and were joined on stage by the entire cast at the end of what was another joyous night of Motown.
Sunday was a relatively quiet day with just a panel discussion involving Motown stalwarts Ivy Joe Hunter, Paul Riser and Dennis Coffey by way of interest. The evening however was another matter with another Detroit A Go Go show featuring artists who recorded for labels such as Ric Tic and Golden World.
Willie Kendrick was on first, dressed in a red suit and shaking hands with everyone in sight. He sang three numbers including 'Change Your Ways' but my lack of knowledge,  and rather muffled vocals, prevented me recognising the other two. No such problem with Ronnie Savoy who began with 'Loving You Is Such A Beautiful Thing' and then brought a female audience member on stage for 'Johnny On The Spot', a song that he wrote.
Pat Lewis appeared next dressed in yellow and sang well on 'I'll Wait' and 'Can't Shake Loose'. Too much chat perhaps but good fun and she clearly enjoyed herself. Following her was a real highlight, J J Barnes, dressed in a pale pink suit but still managing to look like a respectable businessman. He lit up the stage with 'Real Humdinger' and was also excellent on 'Please Help Me' and 'Baby Please Come Home'.
After an interval the tall figure of Al Kent (Ronnie Savoy's brother) was introduced and came on carrying a large book called 'Custodians of the Hummingbird', which is the story of his life in music. He sang a little bit of 'The Way You Been Acting Lately' rather shakily, and was presented with a lifetime achievement award by Phil Dick. Pat Lewis received a similar award.
It was now time for some vocal group harmony and the Reflections came on stage for four numbers. They would not be out of place at the Long Island doowop festival and were great on 'Poor Man's Son', a good version of Jackie Wilson's 'To Be Loved' and their fabulous hit from 1964 'Just Like Romeo and Juliet'. They were followed by the Fantastic Four, none of them original members but excellent in terms of their harmonies and choreography. They have re- recorded two numbers on a 45 that was launched at Detroit A Go Go and sounded great on both numbers, 'Can't Stop Looking For My Baby' and 'Pin Point It Down.
Tony Michaels, lead singer of the Reflections, came on stage to sing his 1967 solo number 'I Love The Life I Life', dedicated to all the Northern Soul fans in the audience.  Finally the Ladeez, dressed in short yellow tassled dresses, sang 'Proud Mary' in full Ike and Tina Revue mode and the rest of the acts came on stage to bring what had been another great night, and a fabulous weekend, to a close.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Detroit soul and Motown classics

Next day we took the Q Line streetcar Downtown and wandered over to the Hello record shop, an intimate place where I bought some Detroit soul 45s. Noah Shaffer and his friend Mark are in town as are Seamus and John McGarvey and we made our way to Bert's Warehouse Theater where the shows are being held. The first evening featured non-Motown acts, all of whom gave their all, although the sound was rather muddy. Spyder Turner hosted amusingly and good quality backing was provided by Ronnie Nelson's TFO Orchestra with background vocals by the Ladeez, who also did a good version of 'Get Ready'.
First of the original Detroit soul acts on stage were the Professionals, looking the part and sounding good on a couple of numbers, including 'That's Why I Love You'. Jimmy Scott, wearing a white jacket, sang just one number, 'It Rained 40 Days and Nights' and came across strongly and I would have liked more. The Dynamics, whose 1963 song 'Misery' was plagiarized by The Who when they were calling themselves the High Numbers, sang three numbers from.their early 70s 'First Landing' period including 'I Need Your Love' and did well. Willie Jones, wearing a yellow suit that matched the colour of the dresses worn by the Ladeez, did three songs. Willie, once of the Royal Jokers, helped launch Betty Lavette's career and she returned the favour more recently by helping Willie get a record deal for his 'Fire In My Soul' album. Spyder Turner showed that he is still in great voice with 'I Can't Make It Any More' and his 1966 version of 'Stand By Me', during which he mimicked Sam Cooke, Joe Tex, Al Green and others.
After this excellent but fairly short (75 minutes) live show we went with Noah to the Raven Lounge blues bar, a genuine juke joint where there was a live band and three great singers. Harmonica Shah is an excellent harp player and sounded just like Howlin' Wolf on 'Move Over Old Man ' and 'Baby Please'. He's an expressive singer with a great voice and highly enjoyable. So too was Michelle Varell (?) on 'Hey Sexy Man' and 'Dr Feelgood'. I also enjoyed Ray Robinson, a big man who said he had been shot four times for no reason a few years back but lived to tell the tale, who came across strongly on 'Last Two Dollars', 'I'll Play The Blues For You' and 'Stormy Monday Blues'. Many thanks to Noah for letting us know about this wonderful blues bar.
Given that we are in Detroit a visit to Hitsville USA, now the Motown Museum, was essential, so we took the short trip on Friday afternoon. The tour is interesting but the place is tiny, including the famed Studio A, and it's amazing that it produced hundreds of brilliant recordings. Greeting the tour group in the studio were trombonist and producer Paul Riser and two members of the Andantes, Jackie Hicks and Louvain Demps. Back at the hotel, we met up with Seamus and got a photo of the current line up of the Fantastic Four at their record signing, plus their autographs for John Marriott.
The evening's live music at Bert's Warehouse was billed as Motown A Go Go and was just that. It was brilliant, with a line up of great Motown artists, mostly female. First on were the Posse, a lesser known name from the late 60s who now comprise one original and one other (another original was Ronnie Nelson, now leading the backing band). Their one number 'Fire' was delivered with energy and excitement and good to watch. Next came the Marvelettes, with one original member, Katherine Anderson Schaffner seated on a throne and three younger members dressed in long green gowns. I enjoyed them a lot and their versions of 'Please Mr Postman', 'I'll Keep On Holding On', an acapella version of 'Locking Up My Heart' (a personal favourite) and  'Your Love Can Save Me' were a delight.
Kim Weston came next. Nearly 80, the years are sadly showing but she remains slim and active. Dressed in a long velvet dress, her songs included 'Take Me In Your Arms' and 'Helpless', both stone Northern Soul favourites. After an interval the show continued with the tall, blonde Chris Clark, whose set included 'From Head To Toe' and the Motown classic 'Do I Love You'. The acts continued thick and fast and the next one, Carolyn Crawford, wearing a little black dress, was excellent on 'Until You Came Along', her first recording 'Forget About Me' and 'Keep Stepping  Never Look Back'  with tremendous support from backing group the Ladeez, who were terrific all evening.
Finally a solo male singer appeared in the form of G C Cameron, once of the Temptations and the Spinners. His voice was quite remarkable, that is to say, very good, as was his stage act as he sang the Spinners' 'It's A Shame', on which he sang lead, and the ballad 'So Hard To Say Goodbye' in his set.
Final act of the night was Brenda Holloway  a singer I have seen several times in recent years. She was on top form, seemingly inspired by her UK fans, as she excelled on 'What Are You Gonna Do When I'm Gone', 'Every Little Bit Hurts' and 'Reconsider'. The show ended with all the stars joining in on 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough'. Show organiser Phil Dick looked on with pride, as well he might as this was a night to remember. And there are still two more Go Go shows to come!

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Detroit A Gogo attracts UK soul fans

I'm at the start of another US trip, this time to Detroit with Dave Carroll for the Detroit A Go Go Northern Soul weekend. The journey via Chicago O'Hare (a painfully inefficient airport) was on time and we checked into the St Regis Hotel having taken an expensive taxi from Detroit airport. Soul fans are gathering from Wigan, Manchester, Bournemouth and elsewhere but there aren't many locals around so far. We spent the evening at the Northern Lights Lounge where Motown guitarist Dennis Coffey has  a regular gig on a Tuesday. He is a super guitarist as instrumentals such as 'Signed Sealed Delivered' and 'Just My Imagination' testified although vocals on 'Johnny B Goode' and 'Baby What You Want Me To Do' were unexceptional. He was joined on stage by Lady Champagne  who added some good blues to the evening, with 'Hey Bartender' and 'Further Up The Road' the highlights.
Next morning we took a long but chilly walk to Downtown and to the river, which borders Canada. There's a pleasant riverside walk past the memorial to the Underground Railroad, which helped slaves to escape, to the Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre, where top stars appear. After a drink and snack at Andrew's Corner Bar we took an Uber to Peoples Records, which has an impressive selection of soul 45s and LPs.
After an Afro Caribbean meal at a place called Yum Village the third annual Detroit A Go Go kicked off with a welcome party at the St Regis with music by the highy accomplished Drew Schultz and the Broken Habits and vocals by Trish Shandor. This year the festival is also marking the 60th anniversary of the foundation of Motown with two of the evenings branded Motown A Gogo and there were many artists associated with Motown and other Detroit labels in the house. Some of them joined the band for  a number or two, including Pat Lewis on 'Can't Shake Loose', Spyder Turner on 'Stand By Me' and Rose Batiste who got a great reception when she sang her 1966 Golden World record 'I Miss My Baby'. The Voice contestant Beth Griffith-Manley, daughter of Johnny Griffith of the Funk Brothers, who looked gorgeous in shiny red slacks, sang a couple of numbers. So too did Ms Cubie, a raunchy R and B singer in a tight fitting animal print dress who tweaked and belted out a couple of low down and dirty songs that earned her a standing ovation. The band itself did a mix of original songs and Northern Soul covers such as J J Barnes' 'Humdinger' which was much appreciated by the UK based audience and locally based artists alike. It was an excellent way to kick things off.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Giants of Rock and Roll, 1992

Continuing my occasional series of extracts from my 1990s diaries, here is my diary entry for the Giants of Rock and Roll concert at Wembley Arena in December, 1992. I managed to get a seat fairly close to the front so that I could get some decent photos but, cameras being what they were back then, the results are still rather grainy. Should be of interest to rock and roll fans though, many of whom will no doubt have been at the show.
December 5, 1992: 'In the evening went to the Giants of Rock and Roll Show at Wembley Arena. Absolutely brilliant - like watching my whole life pass before my eyes. There was Chris Montez, still with boyish good looks, a white haired Johnny Preston and a fairly big Little Eva, who ran through their hits. This was followed by a lively set by Bobby Vee and the Ricochets with big bouncy balls on stage.
Next on was Lloyd Price with all his hits and a good band, although his voice was showing the years a bit. Then came Duane Eddy with very much the twangy guitar set you would expect.
Then came Little Richard. It was his 60th birthday and he received a cake from Lloyd Price. A wonderful set - the man's as exciting as ever, eager to please. He played for an hour and I would have liked more.
Finally Jerry Lee Lewis, looking pale and much fatter than in the past. He played a solid if unemotional set until near the end when Little Richard and Lloyd Price came on stage and he stood up, smiled, danced around a bit and played a duet with Richard. It was the first time these three legends had ever been on stage together, according to compere Mike Reid.
Other highlights: there was a slightly embarrassing dance from Dr Rock in Richard's set, plus a group of people dancing on stage, including a Ted who kneeled down to worship Little Richard. Most of the audience were older even than me (I was 46 at the time), and there were religious books handed out on the way out - a present from Little Richard.'
Here is Chris Montez, who sang 'Let's Dance' among other songs.
Johnny Preston, famous for 'Running Bear', 'Cradle of Love' and 'Feel So Fine'.
This is Little Eva, whose hits included 'The Locomotion', 'Keep Your Hands Off My Baby' and 'Turkey Trot'.
Here's Bobby Vee.
This is Lloyd Price.
The king of the twangy guitar, Duane Eddy.
Here's Little Richard, acknowledging the applause atop his piano.
Little Richard receives his 60th birthday cake from Lloyd Price.
Jerry Lee Lewis.
Jerry Lee and Little Richard play a duet while Lloyd Price joins in the fun.
Finally here are Little Richard and Jerry Lee together.